Book Review: ‘Under the Dome’

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I’ve been reading Stephen King since high school. Most of his novels are okay, and there have been a few I really loved. So when I bought his most recent magnum opus, Under the Dome (aff link) as an ebook, I didn’t know what to expect.

The basic premise of Stephen King’s Under the Dome is very simple: A mysterious dome falls over the town of Chester’s Mill, cutting the town and its inhabitants off from the rest of the world. Families are split apart. Electricity is cut off. No more shipments of food or other supplies. Worst of all, even the town’s air supply is isolated and quickly becomes stale and filled with pollutants. And like a window left unwashed, the dome gets dirty, blurring the sun and turning the stars strange colors.

The opening chapters of Under the Dome can be overwhelming because of the large number of characters that are introduced. But as you keep reading, the characters take on a life of their own and you stop thinking: “Okay, who’s this? What does he do?”. In the end, only a handful of characters emerge as important. Once I got into the book, the characters were easy enough to track.

One central figure in the novel is Selectman James “Big Jim” Rennie: A power-hungry, violent and dangerous member of the city council, who, after the dome falls, assumes responsibility for the town. He takes control fast, mostly by recruiting some of Chester’s Mill’s more shady characters to work as police officers. The only comparison I have for Big Jim is that he’s like a modern day Hitler.

He uses fear to gain support, however irrational that fear might be, and rallies as many of the town’s citizens as he can to support his cause – complete control of the town. This control can be seen by the blue armbands his supporters wear in a show of support for Jim and his army of young police recruits.

Dale (Barbie) Barbara is Big Jim’s opposite. Barbie is a former Army officer and Iraq War vet who worked as a short-order cook at the Sweet Briar Rose Diner until the dome fell. Barbie is unwillingly thrown into a leadership position when the President of the United States reinstates him in the Army and promotes him to Colonel – making him the de facto leader of Chester’s Mill. This, however, runs in direct opposition to Big Jim’s plans. A lot of scenes throughout the novel show Big Jim trying to finish Barbie off for good – and he almost succeeds.

The novel reminds me of those apocalyptic and end-of-the-world scenarios,

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